Seeking Medical Treatment Abroad
The peak holiday season is now well and truly over, but millions of Brits travelled abroad over the summer, and thousands would have needed to seek medical treatment during their trip. To help anyone who may find themselves in a similar situation, we have put together a few points that travellers should keep in mind.
Seeking medical help abroad can be a very frightening experience, especially when you don’t speak the local language or know the local area very well. This is where travel insurance can kick in, to help you find the nearest public hospital, and liaise with your doctors if you need inpatient treatment.
Travellers should always purchase a quality travel insurance, which offers the cover they need to protect themselves and their trip. Make sure you read the policy wording and speak to your insurer about any questions you may have. It is really important that you declare any existing medical conditions to your insurer, to make sure you are fully covered.
Many people wrongly assume they don’t need travel insurance when travelling in Europe, because they think their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will cover all costs. However, the EHIC only grants the user access to the same medical or pharmaceutical costs as a local, which could be free or still costly. Furthermore, the EHIC will not pay for getting you home – only travel insurance can do this.
This does not mean you should leave your EHIC at home, bring it with you and if you have to use it, your travel insurer will usually wipe your medical policy excess.
One thing to remember when utilising a travel insurance policy is that you have not purchased private health insurance. The vast majority of policies will not cover private hospital fees unless they have been pre-approved by the insurer’s medical emergency team. In an emergency you will always be advised to go to the closest and most appropriate facility, which may be private, but always ensure you contact the emergency team as soon as possible so they can help you.
This can be extremely confusing for tourists, but public hospitals usually have better doctors and facilities than private clinics, which are only set up to treat minor injuries or illnesses. Furthermore, private clinics are notorious for over charging for their services, and have even been known to withhold a patient’s passport until they pay their bills.
Although treatment in a public hospital may be free, we will still pay you a public hospital benefit, and will also cover the costs of getting you home if necessary.
For more information about what to do in a medical emergency abroad, visit our website.
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